Sunday, June 06, 2004

The Weather in California

I was turning thirteen the way
milk turns, becomes thicker,
more complicated, fragrant.
I saw the man with his mirror
and drill in my mouth
as a prophet, a broken wiseman
who had seen the light
and was ever after plagued
by a mist of tears.

As his pick slipped off my gums
he whispered about the language
used in the trenches of World War II,
the code no German could break --
Navajo, a language of pauses and sighs,
vowels that resonate from the chest,
the people on whose land
the dentist's office squatted.

He was a man, he knew things.
He had been hurt by his daughter
and my mother trusted him.

When he said, this time, I think
we don't need novocaine,
I didn't want to
disappoint. I said yes --
a word everyone wanted
from me -- I understood that,
and when the drill came,
with its high thunder in
my head, I knew what was

When it was done
he saw I was quiet,
saw I made no protest.
He told me I was
good, a good patient,
he said.

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